The Eagles made it official Wednesday afternoon, announcing that they've signed veteran safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Here's a look at how he could fit into the Birds' safety picture.
Would Atogwe be given a chance to start?
My guess? Of course. It's not as if the Eagles are returning two Pro Bowl safeties from the 2011 squad. This was a weakness last season, and I'm surprised it took this long to add a veteran to the mix.
By my estimation, Nate Allen has a solid hold on one safety spot. Kurt Coleman saw reps with the first team at the other spot during the spring, but he could be unseated. I'm not saying Atogwe is the favorite to win the starting job, but it would make sense for him to at least be given a chance to compete for it during training camp. Isn't that what Lehigh is for?
What does Atogwe bring to the table?
In the next couple of days, I'll go back and watch some of the Redskins games from last year to get a better idea, but Atogwe's strength over the years has been his ability a playmaker. He has 25 career interceptions, fifth-most among active safeties, behind only Ed Reed (57), Deon Grant (30), Troy Polamalu (29) and Adrian Wilson (26). He also has forced 16 fumbles in seven seasons.
Asante Samuel had 23 interceptions in four seasons with the Eagles, but he's since been shipped to Atlanta. The Eagles' turnovers on offense were a huge reason for their failures last year, but the defense only created 24 takeaways, which tied for 17th in the league. Increasing that number has to be at least part of what they find attractive about Atogwe.
The safety position has evolved over the year, and pretty much all the Eagles' recent moves have focused on rushing the quarterback and defending the pass. Atogwe's ability to cover will likely determine his role.
What's with the timing? Why sign Atogwe now?
The Eagles had been linked to Yeremiah Bell earlier this offseason, but he signed with the Jets. So it's not as if the interest in Atogwe comes out of the blue.
Having said that, at this point in the offseason, they've had a chance to look at their roster during OTAs and mini-camps, and assess strengths, weaknesses and depth. It's unlikely that signing Atogwe will require much of an investment, so this shapes up as a low-risk move.
On the other hand, it's wise to temper any expectations that Atogwe is going to provide a major upgrade. He's 31 years old and battled hamstring, knee and toe injuries last season. It's June 20, and teams have 90 roster spots, yet he's still a free agent. There's likely a reason for that.
The plan would seem to be pretty simple: Bring him in, let him compete for a safety spot (either as a starter or potentially Allen's backup), and if you don't like what you see, cut him later this summer.
What does this mean for Jaiquawn Jarrett?
Maybe it means nothing, but more likely, it means that the Eagles are not getting what they want from the second-year safety.
Let's take a stroll down memory lane for a moment. The Eagles felt Jarrad Page was a better option than Jarrett at the start of last year. Page struggled, was replaced and is now out of the league.
To be fair, there's the whole lockout-shortened offseason excuse for Jarrett on that one, which has some merit.
This offseason is another story though. Coaches have given pretty big votes of confidence to last year's rookies like Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce, talking about how good they're going to be now that they've been able to spend more time on the practice field.
We've even heard players and coaches praise veterans like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, selling us on the idea that they'll be much-improved now that they've had time to mesh.
But we've heard nothing of the sort on Jarrett - at least I have not. Instead, he's been getting reps with the second team, and there's been no indication that the team expects him to be a serious contributor in 2012.
There's still all of training camp to get through, so maybe Jarrett will end up winning the starting spot eventually. On the other hand, it's fair to ask at this point whether he needs to show something to simply earn a roster spot.
Assuming Allen and Coleman make the team, that could leave Atogwe, Jarrett and Colt Anderson likely fighting for two spots. Anderson is recovering from a torn ACL, and Andy Reid said recently that the special-teams ace probably won't start training camp, but is ahead of schedule (Les Bowen caught up with Anderson earlier this month).
Backup safeties need to contribute on special teams. Jarrett had two special-teams tackles last year (Anderson had 12).
There's no question that the Eagles will give Jarrett every opportunity to contribute after spending a second-round pick on him in 2011. But nothing is guaranteed at this point.
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